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Dealing with the Jerks on the Project

I hate to call anyone a jerk. There’s no getting around it… rude says one thing, but jerk sort of says it all while still keeping your language and integrity intact.

You deal with someone who has less consideration for mankind than you do every so often, I’m sure. Both in your personal life and in your professional life. It’s unfortunate, but it’s life. And how you deal with it – or them – says a lot about you and keeping your responses and actions/reactions controlled can mean the difference between success and failure.

I had a fun moment on date night with my wife last week. I dropped her off in front of her favorite women’s clothing store in Downtown Summerlin in Las Vegas and began my mission of searching for an impossible to find a parking spot to show off my awesome parallel parking skills. After losing out on four other spots that I noticed and tried not to run over texting shoppers to get to I finally located one and it was mine. Mine! Then the aggressive jerk behind me pulled as close to me as possible and waited trying to discourage me from backing into the spot. He didn’t know who he was dealing with. I waited, he waited. I put it in reverse and even backed up just enough so he noticed. He didn’t move. So I waited some more. He waited some more. Every vehicle behind him understood and left. Yet he stayed. I still had my reverse lights on. I even honked my horn a couple of times and politely waved him around. Still, he stayed. Finally, after about 5 minutes he got upset enough that he speed around me as fast as he could nearly clipping my vehicle in the process. Victorious, I took the parallel spot I had earned. Won actually. Yay for me.

Ok, in terms of project management I’m not talking about parking spots or road rage, and not really the team either, though that can be the case at times. It has been for me on my team a couple of times and with colleagues in the PM infrastructure a couple of times. I will get to those types of situations here as well. But it can be outsiders – maybe more like “extended relatives” in the PM world like stakeholders, senior management, customer team members, etc. Unfortunately, this probbly comes up more for business analysts than project managers considering the wide range of positions and individuals they must deal with and work with on a daily basis.

Now that I’ve established the population and genres that I’m about the attack… let’s do this. Here are some of the jerky situations I’ve found myself in, or colleagues have, or you may so I’m hoping to help here a bit… read on…

The figure head customer project manager.

Have you ever had a project customer who placed a “project manager” on their side and it seemed like his only job was to be your watch dog? I have – really just on one major technical implementation. He never really contributed anything to the project – he just mimicked what I did, relayed what I said and emailed me a lot to check progress. The progress information was readily available to him in the weekly status I was producing and sending, the project schedule updates I was providing and the daily email updates I was sending out to all key stakeholders. So at the end of the day, he cost the project a lot on the customer’s side of the equation while apparently adding no value. He was often rude and sarcastic even though the project was going well but I knew it was in my best interest to move forward, not complain, and continue to provide him and the rest of the stakeholders with the same high quality and – often daily – updated status information I was already providing. The key is to stay in control, and control how you respond and interact.


The PM colleague who has advice for everyone – a.k.a, a better way of doing things.

Have you ever had one of those colleagues who seems to know a better way of doing things and needs to interject that into nearly every conversation you have with them? I did once. It’s almost amusing but it is certainly annoying. Especially when you really don’t need the advice but it is somehow validating to them. The best response, stay heads down working and respond kindly. I’m never big on creating workplace drama – I like to avoid the drama as much as possible which is probably why I work so well remotely and managing virtual teams. I like the camaraderie with team and colleagues, but I can do that through email and Skype and video conferences just as well if it cuts out the 10-20% time lost to individuals who are focused on the negatives or other things that are not productive to my work, my team and my projects. I’m certainly not anti-people, but I am certainly anti- gossip, busy work, complaining and time-wasting. Avoid these people when possible, and politely keep working while they show up to vent or interject to you in your office. Stay in control of yourself and your actions – that is always the best route to take.

The customer who wants everything for free.

I actually had this one happen just two weeks ago… again. It happens periodically on projects and in consulting engagements. Everyone wants free publicity and freebies or free project add-on work without thoughts that maybe your company will incur expenses getting this done for them or that maybe you even have kids to feed – like in my case. The client contacted me outright, not the other way around. I quickly drew up a proposal for him in the middle of the night because this was an international potential client and I wanted to respond quickly since he was likely near the end of his company’s work day and seemed anxious to move forward. He quickly replied that he wanted the free version. I wasn’t sure what he meant by “free version,” but I replied, “great, you can have this work free with these other ‘x’ services.” His response? “No, I just want the free version.” I explained that either way it takes time and effort on my part. He still wanted the free version so I had to cut him loose even though I was still offering him a great value for what he really wanted. But I could not give it away. Sometimes you just have to walk away when they don’t get it. Your time is worth more and you lose money giving too much time to those potential project clients who just don’t understand the value. They probably never will. Cut your losses and walk away… unfortunately, that’s what I had to do.

Summary / call for input

Again, I consider myself a fairly nice guy and I’m very flexible and easy to work with unless you are A) Endangering my family in any way, B)Trying to mess with my project, or C) Trying to take my parking spot that is rightly mine (apparently after this current experience). Just be fair and others will be fair to you… usually. Sort of the golden rule, you know?

Readers, what is your take on this list? Do you agree? What jerks have you had to deal with and how did you handle the situation? Please share and discuss.